Tuesday, June 26, 2007

So THAT'S what lightening rods are for....

CRACK! BOOM! Rumble, rumble, rumble. What a show last night! Sheets and sheets of rain for about six hours straight. Verandah is flooded this morning, the estero has broken through to the ocean, the swimming pool is overflowing and the pumps in the basement didn't kick in. Lots of water down there. I see Hilda and Chano picking their way through the puddles coming our way. Lots to do this morning. SOOOOOO glad that roof got fixed!

Monday, June 25, 2007

San Sebastian del Oeste

This past weekend Lucy, Sam and I took a short trip up to San Sebastian, a little town up in the Sierra Madre to the west of Puerto Vallarta. Lucy is a young British girl who is house sitting close by. Her brother Sam has been visiting this month. Larry stayed at home to supervise roof repairs. I can't wait to share San Sebastian with him sometime in the next few weeks!

It was wonderful getting out of the hot muggies and into the crisp, dry mountain sunshine. Just after sunset, the mist started pouring down the mountain side. Sleeping overnight in those big thick walls of the Hotel Pabellon, I was looking for an extra blankie in the early morning.
The courtyard of the hotel is in the photo to the left. A family from Guadalajara just bought it and they're really spiffing it up. It's an attitude and activity I saw all over the town.
We had the best Italian meal ever at a place called Minas Real. It's run by Coco -- who was born in the house where the restaurant is located, and her husband Walter, an authentic Italian who makes his own pasta, bakes his own bread and serves it all with wonderful sauces. I had mushroom ravioli with pesto sauce. The pizza, ordered by Sam, was superb, as well. Thin, crispy, baked in a wood-fired oven. And there was tira misu for dessert!

I posted an album under Susan's Photo Albums. It should give you a taste of the completely different landscape and atmosphere that lie just under two hours away from us. I did leave out quite a bit, including a whole series taken at a brand new tiny little tequila distillery near that phenomenal bridge at the front of the album. The couple who run it are so sweet -- and very generous sharing their extremely clean public restrooms.

I took a lot of shots of the Hacienda Jalisco, a bed and breakfast/museum just outside of San Sebastian. And Lucy and Sam and I were intrigued by La Galerita, but weren't able to find anybody home.

The new road has only been open just under two years. You can see remnants of the old one that snaked to the bottom of a canyon and then back up again. That beautiful bridge has shaved about two or three hours off the trip! That's if you could make it at all. The road was often closed in the rainy season. San Sebastian may have another boom time ahead of it! But, shush! Don't let anybody know.

Friday, June 22, 2007

So this is what's been going on

This is going to be just a long newsy all-purpose post, because I'm so far behind on my e-mails to everyone. Not everyone will be interested in all of it. Just skip through and find the stuff you want to know. Just because you haven't heard from me, doesn't mean I'm not thinking of you!

I now have AC in my office. It's wonderful. It was a long road getting here, but absolutely worth it. Kody and I are holed up in my "cave," and I'm finally sorting through all the stuff that's piled up on this desk, just because I couldn't bear to be in here for any length of time when it was like an oven. I am unapologetic about this. I don't WANT to be outside. I only get flashes of guilt because there are so many people around here without AC. But after twenty years in Southern California, I have turned into a weather wuss. This takes me back to the way I grew up in Texas -- hiding out in the summer time, away from the blinding sun.

But back to last Wednesday and the impending visit of Dee and Warren Gruenig.....

The concierge or whoever at their hotel gave them a bum steer about the bus connections. Long story short, they took a taxi -- with a driver who couldn't find our address. So he took them to the bus station "where all the buses go." Well, they don't. So about noon I get a call from Warren. He and Dee have been there over an hour. Larry's been gone about that long looking for them at the bus stations on the other side of the highway. I know they're all within a hundred yards of each other....La Penita is not that big....and this is ONE time I regret not having a cell phone down here. A few small confusions later, they finally hook up and get here about 1:00.

All the workers have gone. It's quiet. Everything is pristine. They say all the proper nice things about the house. We go out for lunch. And toward the end of lunch, Dee says they have to be back in PV no later than 5:30. It is at that moment 3:30, meaning that it is already 4:30 in PV. So we scramble into Hummercita and head south, getting them there at 5:45. Larry and I go shopping.

I love Dee. Three and a half hours! That's all we had. But being with her is like a planetary fly by. She's one of those creative people that bring out the best in everyone. Look for more about her at
http://www.poshimpressions.com/ But what am I saying? I've got a lot of those friends down here. I just get greedy and want them all to know each other! (BTW, have a look at my friend Lin's house under "Susan's photo albums." Click the link over in the column on the left, and then go to the one labeled "Mexi-color!") So, thanks to Nina who helped me pick colors, and to Dee who said Wow! Go for it! I will be painting my kitchen soon: One wall and the archways deep raspberry, two butter yellow walls, and stripes and vines of Comex "salamandra green." I've got the paint. I'm waiting for the time and the ganas.

"So what do you do all day?" Warren asked while we were at lunch. Well, Thursday morning after they'd gone, we looked forward to not doing anything. I got up, stayed in my nightie, ready to graze on a bowl of cornflakes and call my mom. The door bell rang about that time. Surprise! Javier was here, ready to put down impermeablezante on our roof and the walkways down each side of the house. Which meant rushing out to find Leo the iron man to build a cage around the AC unit that just went in because you can't walk on the impermeablezante for a long time after it's put down....and....well you just don't want to know all the details. Workers yesterday. Workers today. And more that will be back tomorrow morning at six. Plus Chano and Hilda again....and the pool guy. Sunday, I hope, will be quiet, but Monday Fernando and his crew start building a shade structure up on the second floor. Larry and I are shoring up the local economy if nothing else.

In between I read.

The latest that I love and recommend is The Hummingbird's Daughter, about a young half-Indian girl, illegitimate daughter of a hacienda owner in Western Mexico back at the turn of the last century in pre-revolutionary times. She has the gift of healing through her great capacity to love. Pilgrims start coming to her at the hacienda, and her growing influence alarms the government of Porfirio Diaz. The story of Santa Teresa de Cabora is all true! I've added a link to author Luis Urrea's website over there under books.

Nina's husband Bob loaned me Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo -- about well-intentioned attempts to do good in the horn of Africa. I'm about a third of the way into it. It's riveting, but sort of a downer. Well, what book about Darfur isn't a downer??!!

So I may alternate reading it with the book Dee brought me: Left to Tell, by Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Rwandan woman whose family was slaughtered in the 1994 genocide, and who spent 91 days with seven other women hiding in a bathroom from the killers who were looking for them. It's a story of unconditional love and forgiveness. She's currently in the U.S. and a number of my friends heard her speak last weekend in North Tahoe.

I've also been reading Ann Lamott's latest, Grace, Eventually. Like in her other books of essays, Travelling Mercies and Plan B, she's edgy and down to earth, talking about heaven right here, despite all evidence to the contrary.

And this morning I cooked. I don't intend to make this a habit. We are now, however, stocked up with

  • lots of garlicky spaghetti sauce ready for all sorts of uses

  • taco filling simmered with oregano, cumin, garlic and raisins

  • roasted red peppers (for sandwiches made with feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano, drizzled with olive oil -- perfect on crusty rolls rubbed with...what else....roasted garlic)

  • pineapple from Maria's huerta, the best Larry and I have ever anywhere, sliced, peeled and de-eyed, chilling in a huge bowl in the fridge. We will not eat this with garlic. Chili, lime and salt maybe.
I think that's enough news for now. I've worked up an appetite, and now that the sun is heading downward, I'll wander into the kitchen and rustle up supper for Cobbo. Hasta la next time!

Oh, one more thing: Here are some driving instructions. Use them yourself, or give them to the cab driver. We want to see you when you make it down here!

North out of PV on 200. Cross big bridge to state of Nayarit and keep coming north. Pass Punta Mita, Sayulita, San Francisco, Lo de Marcos and El Monteon. When you see the sign "Playa Los Ayala 4 KM" you're practically here. The road will widen to four lanes and there will be several traffic signals. When you see the tall spire of a water tower, that's where you'll be coming in. DO NOT TURN LEFT AT THE FIRST LIGHT BY THE WATER TOWER. That's the exit. Turn left at the second signal, right by the police station. That's the entrance. Be very careful around this intersection. It's very confusing, and a lot of drivers just ignore the signals completely. They don't have ambulances parked there for nothing.

After you make that left, turn right toward the Zona Residencial. The main drag is called Sol Nuevo. Stay on it and keep going north. Pass the tennis courts on your right. Then there will be a large "ecological" park on your left. When you come to the end of that, turn left. The street is Pavo Real. Turn right at the end of the street onto Flamingos. Watch out for killer speed bumps. I'm bringing you the way where there are the LEAST amount of these. Turn left on Golondrinos Cross over a little bridge and enter our street! We're down at the end on the right -- Number 3. Get out, honk, yell, ring the plastic button, clang the regular bell. We'll greet you with open arms and lots of ice.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hola Fernando!!!

He's here!!! Oh happy, happy.

At last!!!!

We've got fans! We've got hurricane force winds going through the house! We've got a big hole in my office wall. We've got a quarter inch of concrete dust on everything in that office that wasn't covered with old sheets and footprints through the house of anyone who happens to step into that office. We've got hopes that Fernando and crew will be here this morning....tick tock tick tock....to put an AC unit in that big hole. We've got Chano and Hilda trying to clean up the mess so far. We've got Dee and Warren from CA arriving in a few hours -- just in town for the day to see our place so they can "picture us." I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I'm inclined to do a little of both.

Monday, June 18, 2007

...and waiting...

There were eight vultures hanging out in the palm trees across our street today. Bruce and Jeanette are gone, and there wasn't anyone else around, so we all stared at each other for a while. "Your competition!" I joked to Beto, the garbage man. "Oh, no," he said. "Our helpers! There are hundreds out where we take the garbage. Someone brings in a dead cow -- it's gone in a day." Nice to know. Just quit looking at me, guys. Are there female vultures? Somehow I always think of vultures as....well, not as ladies. But then I remember the dressing rooms when Kohl's has a sale.

I feel a haiku coming on....something about carrying on over carrion.......

Nope. Nada. It is really slow around here.....almost......dead?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Staying Cool -- Mentally and Physically

I'm waiting. It's almost two weeks since we bought an AC unit for my office. Installing it involves cutting a hole in our six inch thick concrete wall and an iron cage for it outside so no one will steal it. Fernando, where are you??!!

He's working. Every skilled craftsman around here is up to his ears, getting ready for the rainy season. That's why we have a whole album of "Javier's pictures" under "Susan's photo albums." We're letting people up north know the progress of their construction projects.

We also have nine kick butt aluminum three-bladed Copacabana fans that are waiting -- still in their boxes -- to be suspended from our ceilings. They will replace the highly decorative but thoroughly ineffective ceiling fans which we currently have. Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy. The blades on these Walmart specials are literally drooping. When we do turn them on they perform sort of a dismal merry-go-round dance, and go creech, creech, creech and drive us crazy. So until we're better "conditioned" around here, we retire to the two rooms we DO have AC in: the bedroom and the living room. I read, and Larry watches television. So what else is new?

And sometimes we emerge to flag down the raspado man who ventures up our cul-de-sac every day. Shave ice they call it in Hawaii. Delicious is what I call it down here. And coooool.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It happened last night

RAIN!!!!!!! Tons of it. Sheets of it. Buckets of cats and dogs. Whatever. Lots and lots of water. And today: lots and lots of steam. We are living in Walt Disney's jungle boat ride. At least it sounds like it. Every feathered and furry fauna is squawking and screeching with delight. The flora seems pretty happy, too. I can almost hear things starting to grow.

I'm going to retire to our hermetically sealed air conditioned bedroom, dry out, and read the instructions for my scanner. I found the transparencies -- remember "slides?" -- that we took on our trip to Mexico in August 1973. Puerto Vallarta when it was quiet and undeveloped. Susan and Larry looking like two skinny kids. We WERE two skinny kids. Just finished reading Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck. One of the regrets she lists about growing older is that she didn't wear a bikini as much as she could have when she was younger. Yep. Me, too. More on THAT later. (I'm building up quite a little backlog, aren't I?) Later.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

At Last...We've Got the Ganas

"No tengo ganas." That means, "I just don't feel like it." Ganas is the Spanish word for inclination, desire, get up and go. Larry and I haven't had a lot of ganas lately. Just getting up and moving through the day has seemed like a major effort. Witness my less than prolific output on this blog. Every system -- computer, bodies, weather, bureaucracy, ocean -- seemed to be operating in ultra slo-mo these last weeks. Heck, even the gas tank in the jeep had water in it, and when we DID get out, it was to sputter and bump around even more erratically than usual.

But yesterday Larry went surfing for the first time in months. The internet surf report SAID five-star waves at Sayulita. You can tell by the photos....they lied. But there was something about getting out and DOING it that seemed to energize us. No, I didn't surf. But I did get up at O dark thirty and go with him. So did Lucy and Sam (more about them later). We all went in search of, if not the perfect wave, at least any wave. We finally settled back at Sayulita, had breakfast at Don Pedro's, and by that time there was enough movement in the water to justify Cobbo getting wet.

And it finally rained yesterday afternoon. Not a lot, but it's like something's broken loose. Last night, Larry ran an AdAware scan on my computer and cleared out a bunch of tracking cookies. Things are gradually unclogging and gaining momentum all around.

So Cobbo's back in the surf this morning. I'm up and blogging, getting ready for Hilda and Chano, and then I'll go watercolor with my friends. We're getting our "ganas" back! I may even scan in "My First Virgin" for your viewing pleasure later today. More about THAT later! (Ok, ok. It's a watercolor of Guadalupe. I think I'm doing a series.....) Hasta la bye bye for now!

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Stroll Around La Zona

Posting pictures to this blog seems to take a really long time, so I've been uploading some of the shots I've taken to my "Collection" page on shutterfly.com. Click on the link to the left labeled "Susan's Photo Albums." The most recent album includes some shots I took while just walking around the neighborhood here. At first I put the names of our neighbors on the houses, but thought better of it!

Attaching names to houses does work sometime, though. We had a nice surprise Saturday evening. Our favorite surfing veterinarian from San Onofre, Doug Coward, his wife Nancy, her sister and one of Doug's staff showed up at our front gate! Their whole office is down enjoying Costa Azul, a resort to the south of us in San Francisco (San Pancho). They had a few hours free and thought they'd explore Guayabitos. They recognized our house from the description and pictures I've posted here. Hooray! Great spending a half hour with them. Next time stay a little longer!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Warp and woof....and prayer

When a Huichol woman begins to weave, she takes the hand loom from her back and ties it to a tree branch. With one end in the tree and one end anchored in her lap, she sets long strong warp threads. On these, line by line, the pattern of her piece emerges.

Stacy Schaefer’s To Think with a Good Heart explores the world of wixarika women and their weaving. She paraphrases the weaver, Gabriela:
“[The loom] is life. When I want to weave and I tie the loom up above [to a tree], my life is also tied up to the sky.”

Anchored in the sky. Held taut between earth and heaven with long strong cords. The pattern of a life waiting to be woven across the strings. Could this be my life?

The Hebrew prophet Hosea quotes the God of Israel caring for Her people: “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.” Cords of a man. The original Hebrew chebel can mean umbilical cord. Following that cord I find Mother God.

Babies in rebozos, outside of the womb yet still at rest. My hamaca cradle swings on the verandah. Is it possible that I am held in such closeness to my Mother God?

Another woman weaver, Yolanda, speaks:
“You have to want to learn weaving. You have to think that the work you are doing was done by Takutsi Nakawe [Grandmother Goddess of Growth and Creation]. You have to ask for these thoughts.”

What are my thoughts? Where do they come from? Do I trust the great Mistress of Weavers enough to cast the warp and woof of my life into Her care? Do I hang my loom in the sky? Or shall I selfishly hold my crude instrument close to the ground, anchored on a handy stone where I can closely inspect every fiber, agonize over each perceived irregularity, stain the work with tears, sweat, and dirt?

Takutsi Nakawe, this name is new to me, but Your love I’ve known forever. My loom is in Your hands. I am throwing it way up to the sky – hooking it on the stars. I trust You to secure each knot, choose every thread, and pick a pallet of colors that will make my life sing. Quiet grays. Raucous reds. It’s Your choice. The divine science of my being – that design of Yours which has conceived me and everyone else in one big web of Life -- is consistent, integrity intact No seams. No rips. No tears. Only underlying strength and structure. You know what You’re doing -- the purpose for which I am being fashioned, my own unique pattern. You won’t find me second guessing.

Now, please make me flexible, pliable, like one of those rebozos from Santa Maria. Eight feet long and three feet wide they can be, yet they fall through a wedding band like water through a pipe. Let me be that fluid. And let me keep these thoughts – Your thoughts – embedded on the loom I carry on my back. Your wixirika weaver, Gabriela has it right about the work: “You have to remain careful, thinking all of your life.” Amen.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Cocina con Fusion!

Here's an e-mail I got last night from friend, Linda Youcha -- Emily's mom from Emily and Luke's blog. Boo hoo. Looks like we'll have to wait on a good Thai dinner!

"Hi guys,I am realllly sorrry, but we are going to have to call off the dinner for sat. night here. We have no water! A guy came tonight to check the bomba, pump but doesnt know if he can fix it tomorrow or not......So here I sit with a kitchen full of dirty dishes! I have been cooking most of the day,,,,making fresh coconut milk from scratch, mango lime sorbet from grated limes and fresh lime juice, and fresh mangoes,,,,,just getting ready to skin and debone the chicken for the musman curry chicken, using that wonderful fresh coconut milk I just made (thick and thin)....but cant do it now.. It is best to make a day ahead.....so, now even if he came tomrrow to fix the pump, our kitchen and house would be a disaster and we would be behind schedule with all the cleaning up to do and cooking..."

Thai cooking and Mexican cooking share so many of the same ingredients: rice, coconut, coconut milk, mangos, limes, jalapeno and serrano chiles, cinnamon, cilantro, fish, fish, fish, shrimp and more fish, any number of fresh veggies. Other Thai ingredients that are here for the picking, if one were so inclined (most Mexicans are not) are lemon grass, mint, turmeric, ginger. It's all in how and IF you put them together! Are we drooling yet?

Mango Haiku

My friend Michelle Karlskind recommended The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan. It's written by Abigail Friedman, a U.S. diplomat stationed in Tokyo. It seems an odd book for me to be reading in Mexico, but Abigail found in haiku a means for synthesizing moments and personal feelings in the face of a foreign culture. I would classify it not only as a "how to" book, but a spiritual autobiography as well. I've put a link to it in the column to the left.

Haiku has rules -- which people who "do" it feel free to ignore. And of course "doing it" in Japanese is somewhat different than in English, because in Japanese you get the visual impact of the symbols, as well as the written text. But basically in English you aim for a 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Only seventeen syllables! Every one of them should count!

Abigail's book has inspired me to take a stab at haiku. My friend Bettye Givens tried to strong arm a bunch of Lubbock, Texans, to give it a try a year ago a celebration for my niece's graduation. I just didn't get it then. Neither did most of us. But I think I'm sort of opening up to the whole concept. Thanks Michelle, Abigail and Bettye. For you: here are some Mexican (i.e. I wrote them in Mexico) haiku of the season:

Baby yellow mangos
Splattered open on the rocks –
Ripe sunshine with seeds.

Rusty red leaf-scythes
Protect mango civilians.
Green shoots. New troops.

Overripe fruit bombs
Cluster ready to drop.
Watch out below!

Mangos, bananas
cinnamon and vanilla --
Liquid pumpkin pie.

The month of June
Suspended like a mango
Waiting for the rain

Roadside seduction:
Wood crates of baby mangos.
Take us home with you!